Ian Holloway has threatened to resign as manager of Blackpool should the Football Association apply any sanctions for him fielding a much changed team against Aston Villa, but John Baines believes the FA have to investigate.
Damned if they do, damned if they don’t. The FA at least have an obligation to look into why Ian Holloway decided to make ten changes for his line-up at Villa Park to the one that drew against Everton at the weekend. It is only correct and ethical for them to do so to ensure clarity and fairness throughout the league. It is their rules all clubs abide by, and by which Blackpool have technically broken.
The law in question is rule E20, which equates that clubs must play a full-strength team in all top-flight matches. That Premier League rule book is a cross between a code of conduct and a utopian dream, with many of its connotations along the lines of fair play and equality. The rule is virtually redundant, ambivalent to police, and subject to punitive punishment yet it is one that still needs to be monitored.
Of recent examples, Mick McCarthy was given a £25,000 suspended sentence for fielding a ‘weakened’ line-up against Manchester United at Old Trafford last season. Yet games of more significance have been left to pass. Due to a Champions League final a few days later, Sir Alex Ferguson sent out a scratch side to face Hull City on the final day of the 2009 season. The Tigers were involved in a relegation battle with Newcastle, and Ferguson’s line up could have directly resulted in the Toon’s relegation. As it was, United’s second string beat Hull anyway and with Newcastle losing at Aston Villa, the United line-up proved academic. Even so, and in retrospect, the FA decided not to act.
Similar instances between Liverpool and Fulham and Manchester United and West Ham have all directly or indirectly lead to relegation for other teams, but still no punishments have been meted. It is a rule which is regularly flaunted and which is subjective dependent on the teams involved and the circumstance of games, yet the FA as the watchdog of the league need to monitor the process of our games.
Across the continent there have been examples of foul play in some of Europe’s top leagues. Serie A’s governing body was widely condemned for its passive existence during the Calciopoli scandal involving referees, as was the German FA during a similar refereeing scandal. With the popularity and reach of gambling into our game, there are widespread, but unconfirmed, rumours of match fixing across many of the leagues both here and abroad. The FA must be seen to be operating as the watchdog, judge and jury of the domestic game.
Previously Holloway has entertained with his off-the cuff-buffoonish remarks, but he has become increasingly volatile and provocative with his condemnations. In the past few weeks he’s spoken out about the power agents have in the game, and criticised the Bosman ruling – a service which has had great dividends for Holloway and his club. Now, at the mere hint of FA intervention, the 47-year-old is off again.
When first pressed on the issue, Holloway exploded in typically outlandish rhetoric, “I’m
Once again, Holloway is completely missing the point; overlooking the fact the FA should at least ask him to explain his team selection. Hypothetically, if Blackpool get sucked into the relegation battle, and a Manchester United-Hull type scenario occurred, what would his stance be then?
True, the ruling is redundant and the FA should not and cannot enforce teams to pick their best sides. The introduction of the 25 man squads has essentially allowed clubs to name a pool of 25 ‘first-team’ players, and thus are entitled to pick whom they want. But nevertheless, the FA are only doing their job in ensuring the integrity of the previously untarnished Premier league.
In fairness to Holloway, his words came in the aftermath of his side’s last minute loss to Aston Villa – a performance in itself which makes a mockery of the ruling and subsequent probe – but his once refreshing rants are in danger of become too predictable and stale.
Holloway has been a welcome addition to the league thanks to his unique personality and spirited approach with a Blackpool team built on a pittance. He has many admirers and sympathisers but must be careful not to alienate himself and reduce his neutral followers by sounding off about every controversial issue he can get a word in about. You’re loveable for a reason ‘Olly. Please keep it that way.